The following op-ed was posted by PennLive.com.
As expected, the Supreme Court voted against unions and working people in the Janus v. AFSCME case. This landmark decision makes it easier for anti-worker extremists to rig the economy and try to divide working people.
The outcome of the Janus case will harm public servants such as nurses, teachers, school district workers, police, firefighters and social workers, in addition to driving down wages for everyone, eliminating health insurance for many working families and making workplace accidents and deaths more likely.
While the decision is disheartening, it is far from shocking. For decades, we’ve seen anti-worker forces mount a coordinated attack on union rights and middle-class protections in Congress and state capitols across the country, including in Pennsylvania.
These attacks seek to dismantle unions and revoke worker rights. It’s time for elected officials to take a stand. Working families need elected leaders to stand up to attacks on union rights, and instead create more opportunities for Pennsylvanians to have the freedom to join and form unions.
That’s why we proposed a bill, the PA Workplace Freedom Act.
This bill is simple and straightforward. It would cut through the red tape and allow public sector workers to form a union if a simple majority express support, replacing the lengthy and bureaucratic procedure workers must go through now.
With the economy out of balance and more wealth concentrated in the hands of the super-rich than at any time in the last century, we need unions more than ever. Working families deserve to get a fair return on work and make a good living so that they can support their families. Unions have always been the clearest path to the middle class.
Ironically, at a time when unions are under attack, a record number of people are trying to join them.
Public approval of unions is soaring: a recent Gallup Poll shows 61 percent of Americans have a favorable view of unions. More people joined unions in the last several years than in recent decades, with 262,000 new union members joining the labor movement in 2017.
Just this month, 1,500 airport workers at the Philadelphia International Airport secured their first union contract. From the time they began organizing, Philadelphia airport workers more than doubled their wages from a disgraceful $5.75 an hour to $13.60 and also won workplace protections for the men and women who make the airport work.
Thousands of health care workers across the commonwealth have joined a union this year and are working together not only to improve wages and benefits for caregivers, but to secure safe staffing and high-quality care for everyone in Pennsylvania. Adjuncts at colleges and universities across the state have been joining unions in droves.
Our bill is about more than just union members, it’s about protecting all of the gains the middle class has achieved. Labor unions fought for the civilized working conditions we take for granted today.
Without unions, we may not have child labor laws, a 40-hour work week, overtime pay, a minimum wage, vacation days, workplace safety rules, sick leave, breaks at work, sexual harassment laws, privacy rights, health insurance, pension coverage and more.
The average Pennsylvania worker is able to spend the weekend with his or her family, take her child to the doctor and take a lunch break at work because unions fought for them. These rights came at a price. Many of our ancestors — working in factories, steel mills, coal mines and the railroad — gave their lives so that we could live ours with dignity.
We owe our ancestors’ legacy a fair fight against the wealthy special interests that are rigging the system against working families. The Janus case was backed by corporate interests who want to weaken unions, making it more difficult for workers to find strength in numbers to negotiate for better working conditions, better hours, better wages and better communities as a whole.
The PA Workplace Freedom Act aims to stem this tide and make it easier for Pennsylvanians to exercise their freedom to join a union and have a voice on the job. Union workers are our friends, family members and neighbors. They fight fires that threaten to devastate our homes. They collect our trash and take care of our sick family members in the hospital. They teach our children math and protect our towns.
Every resident of this Commonwealth will be harmed if we allow the attacks on working families to continue. We urge all of our colleagues in the General Assembly to support the PA Workplace Freedom Act to protect the freedom and dignity of all Pennsylvania workers and to allow them to provide for their families.